Finding Nemo Movie Review

The Pixar logo - which is the company's name with a desk lamp in place of the "I" - has become the cinematic equivalent of a "Prime" stamp on a side of beef. Once we see it, we know we're in for breathtaking animation, clever scripts, and wholesome family entertainment. The cynic in me waits for the geniuses responsible for the Toy Story features, A Bug's Life, and Monsters, Inc. to slip up and release a flop. Looks like I'll be waiting a few more years.

The latest Pixar pearl, Finding Nemo, ventures under the sea, where single dad Marlin (voice of Albert Brooks) overprotects his only son, Nemo (voice of Alexander Gould). One day, Nemo wades into uncharted waters on a dare, only to be snatched up by a scuba diver and placed in the tank of an Australian dentist. For the remainder of the film, Marlin and a forgetful fish named Dory (voice of Ellen DeGeneres) scour the ocean floor in an effort to bring Nemo home, a task that's easier said than done.

You won't need a map to unearth the treasures buried in Nemo. Pixar continues its streak of casting eclectic atypical stars and marrying them to the right visuals to create memorable characters. Brooks is pitch-perfect when conveying Marlin's neurotic insecurities and DeGeneres hooks the humor in Dory's sporadic mental flights. The fact that her fish suffers short-term memory loss reeks of "tired comedic device," but DeGeneres bucks the odds and gets enormous and consistent laughs here.

The vast ocean setting only broadens the array of creatures available for animation, and the Pixar team responds in kind with wildly vivid designs. Their most spectacular achievement has to be the way they capture a fish's swaying motions. Nemo convinces us we're underwater. You may have to remind yourself that it's safe to breathe. That is, if you can catch your breath between fits of laughter generated by writer/director Andrew Stanton's sharp script.

With concurrent plotlines being played in both the ocean and the fish tank, Nemo is able to introduce and develop more characters than you'd expect. My current favorite is Jacques, a French shrimp with a cleaning fetish, but that could change after my next viewing. Miraculously, they're not just characters on screen; they stay with us long after the theater has gone dark.

Despite its "G" rating, it's worth mentioning that Nemo occasionally backstrokes through the deep end of the adult content pool. A tragic death of Bambi proportions starts the film, and Marlin and Dory face an ocean of dangers - from toothy sharks to sting-happy jellyfish. Kids may be spooked by the urgency of certain chase scenes, but it's only temporary, and the fear factors are immediately followed up with safe, giggle-inducing head clunks.

The number of obstacles placed between father and son will eventually exhaust even the most attentive child, and the inevitable reunion could've arrived a tad bit earlier. But these quibbles are miniscule in the face of the big picture. Nemo swims with the finest fish. This catch is certainly a keeper.

Finding Nemo is now the top grossing animated film ever, and it's certainly on its way to being the top grossing animated DVD. In typical Disney/Pixar fashion, a two-disc set is in order. A half hour of "visual commentary" can be set to interrupt the film, including outtakes and deleted scenes. There's also some less compelling stuff, like a video aquarium, a Jean-Michel Cousteau documentary, and a zillion kid-friendly features.

Move along, nothing to see here.


Finding Nemo Rating

" Extraordinary "

Rating: G, 2003


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